Loneliness hits me like a punch in my stomach. It’s a crippling, horrifying and disconnected feeling. My thoughts turn dark and inwardly cruel when I feel like I haven’t connected with someone properly, or I feel as if I’m about to lose someone. The air suddenly feels hot and claustrophobic, I can barely breathe. I feel dizzy, on the verge of collapse. I can feel my eyes filling with hot tears. I sometimes have these bizarre, random panic attacks because of some deep rooted fear of being lonely. I am so, so terrified of feeling isolated and alone.
I have no reason to feel lonely. I have an incredibly supportive family who I am lucky enough to be able to live with. I study architecture which results in constantly being around like minded, interesting people. I have beautiful friends who I talk to and see every, single day. I am probably further away from being alone than I could possibly be, and I think this is why I occasionally have these intense, panicked moments. I fear that it is all going to slip through my fingers, people will turn their backs on me and I will suddenly be alone. It is a totally irrational fear, and one I have had since childhood.
When I was a child I would have a recurring nightmare that haunted me for years. In my dream I would wake up in our empty, warm house. My parents and brother were nowhere to be found. I’d fix myself my favourite breakfast and eat it in a gleeful, greedy silence. I’d walk outside and I’d discover that everyone had disappeared overnight. I was the only one on the planet! I could do anything! I wandered the streets and walked into shops, taking everything I wanted. I played and laughed, excited about the possibility of endless freedom. Then all of a sudden, whilst standing amongst huge skyscrapers in total silence, I’d be hit by a paralysing realisation that I truly was the only person left on Earth. My family and friends were never coming back. I would be alone forever. And I would collapse to the floor in the same kind of panic I now have in my reality.
What a horrible dream to have as a child.
I am very content to do things alone. I am fine to go a couple of days without seeing people. I travelled to Europe and backpacked across the continent alone. I enjoy my own company. I don’t believe the feeling of loneliness has anything to do with being content with oneself as a person, nor does it have anything to do with how alone you actually are. For me, the feeling of loneliness often comes about when I am feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or isolated in a social situation. It comes about when I let down my walls and give a part of myself to someone that I may not get back. Or when someone I care about doesn’t return the same kind of emotional giving I hand out.
Usually, the feeling of loneliness comes from exceptionally silly circumstances, but I think the fear comes from quite deeply affecting moments in my past. For instance, if I text someone and they don’t reply I occasionally jump to the conclusion that they abhor me, because I’m a horrible person who isn’t worth loving. Or, I might not receive the right amount of attention that I expect from someone and therefore I will assume similar things. I know I do this because I had a relationship in the past with someone I deeply adored who started ignoring me, restricted contact and eventually fell out of love with me – so I tend to assume the worst. That doesn’t mean I believe every situation is like that, but I think the feeling of losing someone I loved over quite a drawn out time period has deeply affected the way I think and feel in social situations. I just want to feel loved!
Over time and through growing a little older and wiser I have become a hell of a lot better at analysing these thoughts and catching them before they snowball into one of the aforementioned panic states. If someone doesn’t respond the way I expect them to, instead of falling into a dark thought trap, I give them the benefit of the doubt. They are probably busy, or tired, or have other shit to deal with other than my attention seeking pestering. Doesn’t mean they don’t like me, just means they have a life and I’m not the centre of their universe. And that’s ok.
I can be the centre of my own universe anyway.
Loneliness can be pretty terrifying, and I am still pretty scared of feeling isolated and alone. I do however know that this fear is irrational and I am learning to be happier and brighter in my own mind. Being on my own has taught me a lot about managing balance in my thoughts and finding an inner peace. I feel like I’m going to be forever battling this fear of loneliness, but hey, I’ll do it well. And I’ll do it with a smile on my face whilst leaving a trail of glitter and sparkles.
Because that’s how I roll.